Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Denver 107, New Orleans 86
(Denver wins series, 4-1)

Honestly, there's nothing I can add here about the Hornets that wasn't covered in this post. Too many sub-standard players using up too many possessions to beat a good team like Denver. Or, a great team like Denver.

Denver is a great team. A dynamic, multi-faceted outfit that put the Hornets on ice without really even bringing it until the third quarter.

That's not to Denver's discredit. They know the score, even if the score is 36-34, and knew they could turn it on at any time. A 3-1 lead, white uniforms, and the knowledge of a 58-point shellacking will do that. Sometimes there's a comfort level that you just can't fight, you just have to be aware and work to overcome it, eventually.

But, please do overcome it. Thanks.

So, the effort kicked up a bit in the second half, and the result was a 21-point second half advantage for the Nuggets. After a so-so first half (10 points on 10 shots, two assists, two rebounds), Carmelo Anthony finished with 34 points on 25 shots, and four steals.

Defensively, the same rules applied. Denver would trap Chris Paul in either an isolation or screen and roll set, and if Paul wriggled free, three sets of raised arms would await him in the paint.

On the other end, Denver shared the ball (26 assists on 37 field goals, and on first glance I don't know if that was trumped up by home cooking; they seemed to be looking for each other), they were hot (10-23) from behind the arc, and the team continues to get better, game after game.

Heading into May, it's hard to ask for anything better. Maybe a new grill. I do have a birthday coming up.

Another present? Stop bringing up year-to-year, first round defeats as "failures."

I'm not Tracy McGrady's biggest fan, to say the least. But I can't find a single team in his postseason career that shouldn't have lost in the first round. His teams were beat by the better team, every time. It's a team game, and that's what happens.

Same with Carmelo Anthony. Not that he was some martyr during his first four playoff runs, but his team lost to the better team every time out. How is that a reflection on Anthony? I don't recall Michael Jordan ever topping the Celtics in two first round tries, much less the Bucks, in his first three playoff turns. His team lost to the better team, every time out.

I'd like to think that this Denver win (with Carmelo and his better squad, replete with a healthy Nene, the addition of Chauncey Billups, the return of Kenyon Martin and ascension of Chris Andersen and J.R. Smith) would change things. That people would look at the difference between the rosters of the Hornets from last season, and the Hornets from this season.

But there I go. Thinking again. Whistlin', too.

Atlanta 106, Miami 91 (Atlanta leads series, 3-2)

Good god, y'all. This series is terrible.

Another blowout. And this time, contrary to what we saw over the first four games, there really weren't any runs that managed to entertain. Pity, because most of us had high hopes for this series, thinking these two disparate (but ultimately, evenly-matched) teams would be able to pull of the sort of nonstop overtime heroics that the Chicago/Boston series has.

Now, given the choice, I'd rather see the rosters from Chicago and Boston battle for 53 or 58 minutes than the Hawks and Heat rotations go at it in a close game for the same amount of time. But we still had high hopes. And for each of these Heat/Hawks games to be decided, more or less, by the nine minute mark of the third quarter? No fun.

Lots of hemming and hawing in this one, as well. Solomon Jones and Dwyane Wade got into a "tussle," I guess, and the resulting post-Rondo post-Howard fallout made it so Dick Bavetta and crew spent six minutes of real time after the Jones foul on Wade talking and going over game film in order to get a call correct that they wouldn't have even deigned to watch the replay on a month ago. Boring as hell.

Beyond that, the Hawks dominated the glass. Crushed the Heat on both ends. Miami shot OK, in the end, but it wasn't really close after the second quarter, as Miami's disjointed attack (on both sides of the ball) did the team in. Of course, they can probably win out from here, or Atlanta can win Game 6 by 40. I have no idea. Nobody does.

It's safe to say Joe Johnson returned a bit in this one, but he's always been pretty overrated to begin with (check those minutes and shot attempts), so for my odd reasons his 25-6-6 game sort of left me cold. Lots of free throws (12-15 from the line) will do that. The Hawks lost Al Horford to an ankle sprain, and Dwyane Wade managed 29 points on only 19 shots, with only one turnover. And Miami lost! Bad D, bad glasswork.

Onto the funny bit ...

Josh Smith's attempt at a late-game dunk was bush league. He went for a modified Isaiah Rider-turn with the Hawks up 20, and botched it. I don't need to act haughty or holier than whomever and beat the pulpit. You'll get that from other areas, and (if you'll continue to read) from me.

It was stupid, it made no sense; and the worst part? What if that had gone in? Would that have sent the Hawks' fans into a tizzy? Or would they, as I would expect, kind of cheer and murmur at the thought of "was that really necessary? Wasn't that kind of a prick move?"

But to hear Heat coach Erik Spoelstra complain about it, talking about how the Hawks tried to "embarrass" the Heat? Come on. First of all, come up with a game plan and a rotation to beat the Atlanta Hawks, a team that is coached by a man named Mike Woodson.

Secondly, remember this game? When you called a timeout with 30 seconds left, and your team up 13 points? I wasn't angry because I'm a Bulls fan -- if you're the Bulls, and you don't like it, then find a way to be closer than 13 points with 30 seconds left -- but I was angry as a fan of smart decisions, and good decorum. Josh Smith had none of that on Wednesday, and Erik Spoelstra whiffed on it back in December.

If I were him, I'd let the players do the complaining about the Smith play, take advantage of the seething anger behind closed doors, but pass on stirring things up to the press. But that's me. I think stats tell the whole story, or something.

And, really, the most embarrassing part of the night? The fact that I confidently answered "Chris Crawford" as soon as TNT's Ernie Johnson Jr. brought up Flip Murray's 23 bench points nearly setting a Hawks record. What can I say? 1999 was fun.

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